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Ishmael, by Christopher Davis

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First published by Harper & Row in 1967 Now available through

Abraham, Prince of Ur, rich in cattle, silver, gold, maid-servants and man-servants, is an old man, God-obsessed. Out of his passionate yearning for one principle, one law governing the universe, out of his vast hunger, he has created God from the only materials at hand—himself: God fallible like him, corruptible like him. (When Sarah saw God and Abraham walking together she could not tell which was which.) But, despite his craving for one God, Abraham carries with him as he trades up and down the land of Canaan, the four thousand gods of Ur—a residue of the pre-history of the race.

It is Abraham's intuition that his God does not want the sacrifice of the first-born required by those earlier gods. Still, it might be just as well to send Ishmael into the desert. The decision is painful: Aware in his own being of the oneness of all things, created or uncreated, Ishmael does not need God to affirm this oneness. What Ishmael wants is his father's love, not God's.

Click here to read an excerpt from Ishmael.

Click here to read an excerpt from the 2007 book Working Words, Creative Reading, Writing, and Teaching by Christopher Davis.

Selected Comments and Review Quotes:

"A short, intense poetic-rhapsodic is remarkable this portrait can be contained in the frame of a brief book also filled with other rich portraits...a book of beauty and fascination."

—New York Times Book Review

"A strong and blazing book. It deals with outcasts in a desert the shape of the world, who find the wild strength to love, to master Oneness, and to grieve and find. The book follows Christopher Davis's Belmarch as one great dream follows another; in this one the reader is Hagar, is Ishmael, and is the God-hungry Abraham. A book of force and the body."

—Muriel Rukeyser, poet

"Here is a novel unlike most we read today...Poetic it is, this story of Abraham and Hagar and Ishmael. And, like the 19th century example, obsessed it is too—here with the relationships of father, mother, son, surrogate mother, half-brother...each character is delineated with intense, insightful reality—with poetry and imagery that pack deep, if sometimes confusing, meaning into a kaleidoscope of biblical and very 'today' with-it ambiguity. The end result is a novel of compassion, terror, poetry and fascination."

—William Brodsky, Jewish Exponent